The U.S. Army, Race Relations, and Manhood

By | October 12, 2014

By guest blogger Sadako Red [see disclaimer]

[October 12, 2014] Greetings! … that’s how my draft notice began from the “Government of the United States” back in 1966. The U.S. government has a long arm and this was my first realization that it could actually reach out and tap me on the shoulder … I was untouchable, as all teenagers know they are, at least I thought so. The outcome of my military service, I was to later realize, was good for me and for my friends who traveled with me by train from The Bronx, New York south to the draft induction station at Fort Dix, New Jersey. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was to be a journey of manhood and learning about people, both the good and the bad, and finding out what I was made of.

With my “order to report for induction” in hand, I reported as instructed. There began my first lesson in government instruction on race relations. That’s right – the U.S. Army was teaching us how to get along with people of other races. My friends and I thought this to be rather entertaining as we were a mixed racial-ethnic group who had attended school and played together in the streets of New York City our entire lives. Why were they teaching us something we already knew about? At least that is what we initially thought.

What they were actually teaching us was that people are different, they have different values and these differences are a big deal. We were taught that hanging out with our friends was okay but that if they were of a different race, we were to be extra careful because the government was interested in it. While this made no sense to us, we finally figured we were just being trained for something special in Vietnam … where we were certainly headed very soon. My little group figured out how to sham this class and quickly learned to “cooperate and graduate.” This also meant we were not to laugh at the drill instructors.

Off to Vietnam. Once there were we to get some advanced combat training? I figured we would be schooled in additional weapons instruction, more practice at hand-to-hand combat, and how to set off explosives; doing the most amount of damage without getting killed. Nope. We got another set of classes in government instruction on race relations. It was rumored that some soldier had killed another soldier because he was a different race. To me the biggest problem, discounting a whole Vietcong army trying to kill us, was illicit drugs for the soldiers – they were cheap and available. Fighting in combat carries some risk. If your buddy is high on drugs, that adds an additional risk factor to the equation. Did we get classes on drugs? Nope. Race, on the other hand, was not a risk factor when the enemy is trying to kill you.

Race, to me, was just something the government wanted to warn us about because it was important to our politicians. I’ve since come to believe that the significance of race was a creation by big shots in government to drive people to vote for them and … well … those big shots were very effective at getting votes. I went into the U.S. Army not thinking much of race because to us it made no difference how we got along with each other; it was just that each of us were different like those kids who were skinny or fat, dumb or smart, tall or short. When I came out of the Army, I had the thought that maybe race was a big deal. Only later did I learn it was a big deal only because politicians wanted it that way.

The real losers were us. The real problem is not the average person but with those who sacrifice us on the altar of race relations. In teaching us about race relations they really teach us that race is more important than other traits of a person because the government says so. They tell us that character is less important and that race matters more. I’d much rather had additional practice on hand-grenades rather than sitting in a class on race relations – I still carry shrapnel in my chest from my own grenade that went off too close. That was when I learned my most valuable lesson in manhood.

You can find me on the web. Just look and find my writings on “leadership”.

Author: Sadako Red

Disclaimer: I chose the pen name Sadako Red in order to remove any notoriety reflecting on my other real job as a very senior executive in the Department of Defense. Naturally, my opinion is my opinion only and despite DoD wanting to associate with my fine work, they cannot have it. Trust me, they want it. Trust me, they can’t stand for it.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.